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Warship Wednesday, May 1, 2019: Indy Radio (on May Day)

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, May 1, 2019: Indy Radio (on May Day)

USS Indy Radio Exhibit (4)

(All photos: Chris Eger)

Here we see an immense– and operational— vacuum tube of a General Electric Model TAJ-19 radio complete with its original 1942 U.S. Navy Bu Ships data plates. The location? The entry level of the Indiana War Memorial, home to the USS Indy Radio Exhibit which is dedicated not only to the famous heavy cruiser of the same name but also to all WWII U.S. Navy radiomen and radio techs.

USS Indy Radio Exhibit (2) USS Indy Radio Exhibit (2)

The radio room exhibit, which I stumbled on last Sunday while in town for the NRA Annual Meetings while on the job with Guns.com, was manned by four big-hearted gentlemen who lovingly cared for the very well maintained cabinets. Their ham call sign is WW2IND for you guys looking for QSL cards.

USS Indy Radio Exhibit (2)

USS Indy Radio Exhibit (2)

The TAJ-19 is a 500-watt CW and 250-watt MCW transmitter that operated from 175kc up to 600kc and was used on just about everything the Navy had in WWII that was bigger than a destroyer escort. This one is still operational…

USS Indy Radio Exhibit (2)

Over 32 volunteers worked since 2008 to establish the radio room, sourcing some 174 items from across the country to include surplus equipment from the period battleships USS Iowa and USS Alabama.

Bravo Zulu, gentlemen!

As for the War Memorial itself, they have an amazing collection which I will get to more in future posts including extensive space dedicated to the USS Vincennes, to both modern USS Indiana‘s (Battleships No. 1 and 58), as well as the above-mentioned cruiser, and the more modern attack sub that shares her same name.

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

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The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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Indy (should) get a Gold Medal from Congress, 74 years after the fact

This photo was taken 27 July 1945, the day before she sailed from Guam to her doom, as documented by the ship’s photographer of USS Pandemus (ARL 18), on the back of the photo. This is probably the last photo taken of her. Caption on back of photo: “USS Indianapolis (CA 35) taken: 1530 27, July 1945, Apra Harbor, Guam, from USS Pandemus RL 18 as it passed heading for the sea. The picture was taken by Gus Buono”. U.S. Navy photo from the Collection of David Buell.

The loss of the Portland-class heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35) in 1945 is often cited as the worst disaster in U.S. Naval history. Now, Congress had approved a special medal for the ship.

S. 2101: USS Indianapolis Congressional Gold Medal Act, had 70 co-sponsors in the Senate this session Passed by Congress last week, it goes to the President next.

The medal once struck next year, will be presented to the Indiana War Memorial Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana. Hopefully, surviving Indy vets and their survivors can also claim one of their own.

The findings of the bill:

(1) The Portland-class heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis received 10 battle stars between February 1942 and April 1945 while participating in major battles of World War II from the Aleutian Islands to Okinawa.

(2) The USS Indianapolis, commanded by Captain Charles Butler McVay III, carried 1,195 personnel when it set sail for the island of Tinian on July 16, 1945, to deliver components of the atomic bomb “Little Boy”. The USS Indianapolis set a speed record during the portion of the trip from California to Pearl Harbor and successfully delivered the cargo on July 26, 1945. The USS Indianapolis then traveled to Guam and received further orders to join Task Group 95.7 in the Leyte Gulf in the Philippines for training. During the length of the trip, the USS Indianapolis went unescorted.

(3) On July 30, 1945, minutes after midnight, the USS Indianapolis was hit by 2 torpedoes fired by the I–58, a Japanese submarine. The resulting explosions severed the bow of the ship, sinking the ship in about 12 minutes. Of 1,195 personnel, about 900 made it into the water. While a few life rafts were deployed, most men were stranded in the water with only a kapok life jacket.

(4) At 10:25 a.m. on August 2, 1945, 4 days after the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, Lieutenant Wilbur Gwinn was piloting a PV–1 Ventura bomber and accidentally noticed men in the water who were later determined to be survivors of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. Lieutenant Gwinn alerted a PBY aircraft, under the command of Lieutenant Adrian Marks, about the disaster. Lieutenant Marks made a dangerous open-sea landing to begin rescuing the men before any surface vessels arrived. The USS Cecil J. Doyle was the first surface ship to arrive on the scene and took considerable risk in using a searchlight as a beacon, which gave hope to survivors in the water and encouraged them to make it through another night. The rescue mission continued well into August 3, 1945, and was well-coordinated and responsive once launched. The individuals who participated in the rescue mission conducted a thorough search, saved lives, and undertook the difficult job of identifying the remains of, and providing a proper burial for, those individuals who had died.

(5) Only 316 men survived the ordeal and the survivors had to deal with severe burns, exposure to the elements, extreme dehydration, and shark attacks.

(6) During World War II, the USS Indianapolis frequently served as the flagship for the commander of the Fifth Fleet, Admiral Raymond Spruance, survived a bomb released during a kamikaze attack (which badly damaged the ship and killed 9 members of the crew), earned a total of 10 battle stars, and accomplished a top secret mission that was critical to ending the war. The sacrifice, perseverance, and bravery of the crew of the USS Indianapolis should never be forgotten.

Indianapolis by Michel Guyot

Regardless of the medal. A lasting legacy of Indianapolis is at Great Lakes, and every budding bluejacket learns about her story first hand.

181218-N-BM202-1104 GREAT LAKES, Ill. (Dec. 18, 2018) Recruits receive training at the USS Indianapolis Combat Pool at Recruit Training Command. More than 30,000 recruits graduate annually from the Navy’s only boot camp. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Camilo Fernan/Released)

Warship Wednesday, July 29, 2015: The saddest story of World War II– 70 years ago today

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday July 29, 2015 The saddest story of World War II

1504x1060

1504×1060

Here we see the Portland-class heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35) as she appeared before the war in New York. Tomorrow marks the 70th anniversary of her tragic passing, often cited as the worst disaster in U.S. Naval history. As she was torpedoed on the other side of the International Date Line, at the site of her wreck it is already that time.

We have covered this tragic vessel a number of times including the Svedi photo collection and a set of papers that we submitted to Navsource and the NHC on her 1936 Friendship cruise, so we’ll keep it short.

The two-ship class of “10,000-ton” heavy cruisers was sandwiched between the half-dozen 9,000-ton Northamptons built in the late 1920s and the seven more advanced New Orleans-class cruisers built in the late 1930s. As such, the twin Portlands were advanced for their time, carrying nearly a thousand tons more armor and 9x 8″/55 (20.3 cm) Mark 12 guns. They had weight and space available to accommodate a fleet admiral and staff if needed.

Indianapolis was laid down by New York Shipbuilding Corporation on 31 March 1930 and was the first warship to carry the name, commissioning 15 November 1932.

2814x2244

2814×2244

Her prewar career was peaceful and she carried FDR on a trip to South America in 1936 and others.

Narrowly escaping Pearl Harbor by being at sea far to the southeast of Hawaii, she soon was earning battle stars the hard way in New Guinea, the Aleutians (where she pummeled the Japanese troopship Akagane Maru, sending her and her soldiers to the bottom of the cold North Pacific), Tarawa, Makin, Kwajalein, the Marianas, Palau, the Philippine Sea and onto the Home Islands.

View from off her starboard bow, at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, following overhaul, 1 May 1943. White outlines mark recent alterations to the ship. Note new forward superstructure, 8

View from off her starboard bow, at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, following overhaul, 1 May 1943. White outlines mark recent alterations to the ship. Note new forward superstructure, 8″/55 triple gun turrets, starboard anchor, anchor gear on forecastle, and paravane downrigging chains at the extreme bow. USS Minneapolis (CA-36) is in the background, stripped for overhaul. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

For a good bit of that time, she served as the 5th Fleet flagship of Vice Admiral Raymond A. Spruance.

Admirals Spruance, Mitscher, Nimitz, and Lee aboard USS Indianapolis, Feb 1945

Admirals Spruance, Mitscher, Nimitz, and Lee aboard USS Indianapolis, Feb 1945

LVTs moving in during the invasion of Saipan, 15 June 1944. Heavy cruiser firing in the background is USS Indianapolis

LVTs moving in during the invasion of Saipan, 15 June 1944. Heavy cruiser firing in the background is USS Indianapolis

At Okinawa, she spent a week solid smacking around Japanese shore positions with her big 8 inchers while dodging kamikazes. On 31 March 1945, she was unlucky enough to be severely damaged by one of these flying meatballs and, losing 9 men, set course for Mare Island Naval Yard in California for repairs.

Once patched back together, it turned out the War Department had a mission for her.

In San Francisco, she took aboard parts and 141-pounds of enriched uranium (about half of the world’s supply at the time) for the inefficient Little Boy atomic bomb, which would later be dropped on Hiroshima, producing about 15 kilotons of sunlight when she vaporized in August.

Racing the 6,000 miles from San Fran to Tinian island in just ten days (with a short stop in Hawaii), she arrived unescorted and delivered her payload on 26 July, which would go on to a history of its own only 11 days later.

However, Indy would no longer be afloat by the time Hiroshima’s mushroom cloud peaked.

This photo was taken 27 July 1945, the day before she sailed from Guam to her doom, as documented by the ship's photographer of USS Pandemus (ARL 18), on the back of the photo. This is probably the last photo taken of her. Caption on back of photo:

This photo was taken 27 July 1945, the day before she sailed from Guam to her doom, as documented by the ship’s photographer of USS Pandemus (ARL 18), on the back of the photo. This is probably the last photo taken of her. Caption on back of photo: “USS Indianapolis (CA 35) taken: 1530 27, July 1945, Apra Harbor, Guam, from USS Pandemus RL 18 as it passed heading for sea. Picture taken by Gus Buono”. U.S. Navy photo from the Collection of David Buell.

At 12:14 a.m. on July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by I-58, a Japanese B3 type cruiser submarine in the Philippine Sea and sank in 12 minutes after sending off a distress call. The sub’s commander took her to be an Idaho-class battlewagon and unloaded six torpedoes in her direction, of which 2-3 hit.

Indianapolis was not equipped with sonar or hydrophones, or provided with a destroyer escort despite her captain’s request– the only case in which a capital ship was left unescorted so late in the war.

Of 1,196 men on board the stricken cruiser, approximately 300 went down with the ship. The remainder, about 900 men, were left floating in shark-infested waters sans lifeboats and supplies for the most part. By the time the dwindling survivors were spotted (by accident) four days later only 317 men were still alive.

Survivors of the sinking of the Indianapolis are taken to a hospital on Guam after their rescue in August, 1945.

Survivors of the sinking of the Indianapolis are taken to a hospital on Guam after their rescue in August, 1945.

After the war her skipper, Captain Charles B. McVay III, was sent to mast in a travesty of justice– the only U.S. captain of more than 350 to face trial for having his ship sunk by the enemy in the war. At the trial the skipper of I-58, which had been captured and scuttled by the Navy in 1946, even testified that McVay was not at fault.

Although cleared by history, McVay later committed suicide. The Navy later adjusted his record, posthumously.

Indianapolis‘s sistership, USS Portland (CA–33), was decommissioned in 1946 and languished on red lead row until she was scrapped in 1962 although she earned 16 battle stars, making her one of the most decorated ships in the U.S. fleet.

There are a number of monuments to the Indianapolis and her wreck was located in 2001.

Her bell, removed from the ship at Mare Island in 1945 to save weight, is preserved at the Heslar Naval Armory in Indianapolis.

0403580

There is also a good bit of maritime art to commemorate her.

Indianapolis by Michel Guyot

Indianapolis by Michel Guyot

rev05111_4

She is remembered by a vibrant USS Indianapolis organization, a number of books, a completed made for TV movie (which was horrible) and a new film with Nick Cage that is currently shooting.

Thirty-two men are still alive from the crew of the USS Indianapolis, including Richard Stephens, 89, who eagerly awaits the Cage film.

“I think it’s going to be a good movie,” said Stephens, who was 18 when he and the others received the command to abandon ship.

He visited the set in Mobile, Ala., earlier this month where the film is being shot on location using Mobile Bay and the USS Alabama museum as a backdrop. “I told (Cage) I didn’t like movies that were fictional, and they should be trying to show more respect, they should be using the facts. He said it’s going to be pretty true to facts.”

Specs:

3150x1869 Click to very much bigup

3150×1869 Click to very much bigup

Displacement: 9,800 long tons (10,000 t)
Length: 610 ft. (190 m)
Beam: 66 ft. (20 m)
Draft: 17 ft. 4 in (5.28 m)
Propulsion: 8 × White-Foster boilers, single reduction geared turbines, 107,000 shp (80,000 kW)
Speed: 32.7 kn (37.6 mph; 60.6 km/h)
Complement: 629 officers and enlisted (peace), 1,269 officers and men (wartime as flag)
Armament: 9 × 8 in (200 mm)/55 cal guns (3×3)
8 × 5 in (130 mm)/25 cal AA guns
8 × .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns
Aircraft carried: 2-5 OS2U Kingfisher floatplanes

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO)

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval lore http://www.warship.org/naval.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

I’m a member, so should you be!

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